Dispatch from the home front: Labor Day morning

It’s beautiful and grey out today. The breeze swirls the flag outside my apartment and sends gusts of wind through my living room window.

Last night, I woke up at around 3 in the morning to rain and a faint sound of knocking. I realized that Adam, a friend staying for the weekend, must have gotten locked out.

After I let him in, I had a hard time falling back asleep. The channels of my brain throbbed from the whiskeys I drank earlier in the evening. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by The Shirelles played in an endless loop through my mind at an obnoxious volume.
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The Poetry of Tomas Transtromer










The old cliché “write what you know” is something of a misnomer. The obvious question to me is “How can you write something you don’t know?” Even the most fantastical, absurd stories about aliens or ancient battles of thrones come from some common pool of one’s humanity and taps into the deep, unconscious myths of existence.

That being said, there are writers who seem to take “write what you know” to the extreme in that their writing is very much seeped in the time and place of their existence. One of these writers is the great Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, the 2011 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Read the rest of this entry »

Island Walk

I emerge at the 215 St stop off the 1 train. I’ve never been here before. It’s familiar but strange, and I wonder whether I’m still in the city. A bridge looms in the distance. Yonder, the Bronx.

I’m armed with a notebook, some pens, and a book, Waterfront by Phillip Lopate, along with a head full of jumbled thoughts and unreliable memories. The daunting expanse of summer awaits me, but first, the daunting expanse of this island. Mannahatta. “Place where timber is procured for bows and arrows.” “Place of general inebriation.” “Island.”

It’s a balmy Monday in June. Before long, in two days in fact, the fury of the New York summer, hot and sticky, is expected. It’s forecast to be in the 90s by Wednesday, but this day is just fine for a walk, a half-marathon stroll along this island, tip to tip, park to park, Inwood to Battery.
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The Prodigal Son by Ranier Maria Rilke

In recent days I have had less time to write longer posts, so I have decided that I would try to do more and more smaller posts about things I have read recently or found interesting.

The other day I rediscovered Rilke’s reinterpretation of “The Prodigal Son” story from the bible. This passage ends Rilke’s only work of fiction called “The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge,” which I highly recommend as well if you have time to read it.

Rilke does not tell the story of the prodigal son as someone who lapses into sin and debauchery but is welcomed back to his family with open arms. Instead Rilke tells the story of “the legend of a man who didn’t want to be loved.”

There are some beautiful pieces of writing such as:

For he had loved again and again in his solitude, each time squandering his whole nature and in unspeakable fear for the freedom of the other person. Slowly he learned to let the rays of his emotion shine through into the beloved object, instead of consuming the emotion in her. And he was pampered by the joy of recognizing, through the more and more transparent form of the beloved, the expanses that she opened to his infinite desire for possession.”

Anyway, I encourage you to read the rest.

Trappist Monks and The Vow of Silence

Fellow DUFL Press blogger, Anthony K, emailed me this article the other day. It is an email interview with 4 Trappist Monks and how they deal with their orders vow of silence.  It is a fascinating interview, and I suggest you read the whole thing, but I thought I would focus on one particular quote:

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Between Two Hedges with David Johnston

To graduate from Brooklyn Free School, students compile a transcript of the classes and activities in which they participated during their years of attendance, write an essay arguing why they are ready to graduate and move on to the next stage of their lives, and defend their graduation in a voluntary meeting with members of the school community–staff, students, parents, and volunteers. Here, reprinted with permission of the author, is the graduation essay of David Karr Johnston, 17. People often ask me whether Brooklyn Free School “works.” More than anything I could say, this candid essay captures the myths, realities, challenges, and some of the benefits of the school from the perspective of one of its founding students.
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On Influence: Starting and Stopping Cracks

Since it is shameless plug week at DUFL press, I thought I’d shamelessly plug an essay by my good friend, Greg Gerke,  on the Kenyon Review’s website. It’s a luminous, thoughtful essay about influences in art and what it means to create. Plus, Mr. Gerke discusses Rilke, William Gass, Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop, and God knows I love them all dearly. There are numerous passages I adore in the essay, but since I don’t want to ruin it for you, here are three: Read the rest of this entry »

Taking a Walk for the Walk’s Sake

Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow. ~Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday I sat in Carroll Park, writing and observing the newly blooming trees of spring. Being unemployed allows me this luxury.

About 10 minutes after I sat down, a man sat next to me and pulled out his Android phone. For 20 minutes, I watched him scroll through his smart phone, checking news headlines and weather updates, Facebook feeds and check-ins for Foursquare. I am no mind reader, but it did not seem that this man had any inkling of his surroundings or awareness of anything besides his friend’s Las Vegas weekend pictures.
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